Auditory brainstem's sensitivity to human voices

Yun Nan*, Erika Skoe, Trent Nicol, Nina Kraus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Differentiating between voices is a basic social skill humans acquire early in life. The current study aimed to understand the subcortical mechanisms of voice processing by focusing on the two most important acoustical voice features: the fundamental frequency (F0) and harmonics. We measured frequency following responses in a group of young adults to a naturally produced speech syllable under two linguistic contexts: same-syllable and multiple-syllable. Compared to the same-syllable context, the multiple-syllable context contained more speech cues to aid voice processing. We analyzed the magnitude of the response to the F0 and harmonics between same-talker and multiple-talker conditions within each linguistic context. Results establish that the human auditory brainstem is sensitive to different talkers as shown by enhanced harmonic responses under the multiple-talker compared to the same-talker condition, when the stimulus stream contained multiple syllables. This study thus provides the first electrophysiological evidence of the auditory brainstem's sensitivity to human voices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-337
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Auditory brainstem
  • Frequency following response
  • Voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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